The House

The House: Recruiting the two ex-Liberals

This week on The House, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh talks about his time in the House of Commons, his plan for the environment and the SNC-Lavalin matter. We also talk about the carbon tax with Minister Catherine McKenna. Finally, MP John McKay fills us in on Russia's activity in the Arctic.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling for a public inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin matter. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode49:59

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he's leaving the door open for Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould to join his party. 

The former treasury board president and former attorney general were kicked out of the Liberal caucus because of their roles in the SNC-Lavalin affair. They had both previously quit cabinet citing a loss of confidence in the government's handling of the matter. 

They now sit as independent MPs. 

"I've not done anything and never indicated any proactive steps to be taken but I am open to any conversations," Singh told Chris Hall on The House. 

He's not openly courting them, and says they'd be assessed like any other candidate. 

"I would assess anyone's fitness in terms of our values and what we're trying to do and what we're trying to bring in for Canadians."

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May also said she'd be happy to have either of them in her party.

Talk of the two women also came up at the Daughters of the Vote event on Parliament Hill this week, where 338 young women took over the House of Commons as part of a specially organized event. 

Several walked out of the Commons during Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's speech. Others turned their backs on the prime minister during his remarks. In both cases, the women said it was to protest certain policies or actions from the leaders.

Singh, as well as May, were both fairly well received by the group. 

The NDP leader says the protests by the women were total within reason.

"I think we need to build a space in every forum that we can where people can can express their dissatisfaction, their dissent," he said. 

 "There needs to be a space that's available for people to be able to express that."

The leader of the NDP is settling into his new seat in the House of Commons. We ask about his chances in Quebec, pharmacare and whether he's courting newly independent MPs Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. 11:41

Canadians' choices on the environment are distinct, McKenna says amid criticism

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says a new government strategy on climate will be announced in June. (Canadian Press)

The federal environment minister says the Conservatives aren't a viable choice because of their climate policy, while her own government faces criticism for its own work. 

In an interview with The House, Catherine McKenna called out Conservative governments across the country for being soft on environmental policy. 

"We have more to do and we will be putting out that out in our platform," she said while casting the issue forward to the fall election. 

When challenged that her government could be doing more, and that other parties are proposing more robust measures, she countered that their plans aren't concrete yet. 

"We haven't really seen those plans. And I'd like to see them because I think Canadians need to understand what is this transition," she said. 

"[The Conservatives] want to do less and less."

The battle over what to do for the environment in this country rages on, as a new federal report, called Canada's Changing Climate Report, found Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world.

Another new study by federal Environment Commissioner Judy Gelfand says the Trudeau government isn't doing nearly enough on climate change. 

The reports come as the Liberals much-awaited carbon tax plan kicked in this week in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick — to mixed reviews. 

Manitoba finally decided it will be going to court to challenge the federal government's imposition of a carbon tax in the province. Ontario and Saskatchewan already have court challenges underway.

McKenna scoffed at that decision from Premier Brian Pallister. 

"He had a price on carbon and then he backed off it. It's just very confusing for people including people in Manitoba. He had a price and we had it accepted it. And so one day he just decided he was going to walk away from that bit," she said.

This week we learned that Canada's climate is changing much faster than the rest of the world and the country's Environment Commissioner says that the government is not doing enough to stop it. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change is trying to balance the urgency of the situation without leaving people behind. 10:41

Canada is losing the Arctic, MP warns

In this photo taken on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, a Russian solder stands guard as Pansyr-S1 air defense system on the Kotelny Island, part of the New Siberian Islands archipelago located between the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea, Russia. (Vladimir Isachenkov/Associated Press)

An MP who has been looking into the militarization of the North warns that if Canada doesn't act now, it could slowly lose its grip on the Arctic.

Liberal John McKay, the Canadian co-chair of the Permanent Joint Board on Defence with the U.S., says he fears Canada isn't ready to defend its territory as the threat from Russia slowly expands.

"We are not very well prepared," he said.

Russia already has missile launchers and air defence systems dotted along ice roads at various military outposts in remote areas along its northern coast.

In the last five years, the Kremlin has poured vast resources into revamping Soviet-era bases in the Arctic.

"There is a very dramatic buildup of Russian military capability right across the top end of Russia, starting with Norway, working right across, right through to Alaska," McKay said Friday in an interview with Chris Hall airing today on CBC Radio's The House.

Russia isn't the only country expanding its command of the north as climate change opens access to resources and shipping lanes. The U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway are all nudging their way into the polar region as well. 

However, Russia seems to be moving in quickly. Russian President Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his goal to lay claim to a large portion of the Arctic, citing the estimated value of minerals in the north at $30 trillion.

The speed of Russia's expansion is making other nations nervous.

Last month, the American commander of NORAD called on U.S. and Canadian policy makers to think about whether they're doing enough to counter Russian threats in the far North.

"We haven't seen this sort of systematic and methodical increase in threats since the height of the Cold War," Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy told the group.

McKay shares those concerns. "It's not just simply the presence of significant numbers of troops but it's also missiles, and ships, and ballistic missiles, and low altitude cruise missiles," he said.

Is Canada doing enough to confront Russia's military build-up in the Arctic? MP John McKay is co-chair of the Canada-US Permanent Joint Board on Defence and he doesn't think so. 6:17

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